June 6, 2008 - News

Unleash the potential of the world's poor farmers
As world leaders grapple with the burgeoning food crisis, we would do well to heed the starkly contrasting stories of two goatherds. First, Alimatou Mahama, whom I met in a small village in northern Ghana. Alimatou had been granted access to microcredit, training and veterinary services through an aid project to improve the productivity of her herd. Her income increased and she was able to provide more food for her family. The extra cash meant she could afford to send her children to school and to dream of an even better future for them. On the streets of Rome, a colleague recently struck up a conversation with a Senegalese teenager selling handbags to tourists. The boy was homesick, sleeping rough, spending his days dodging police and touting his products for a paltry profit of a few euros. In Senegal, he, too, was a goatherd, but he left because he saw no future in farming. Now he, and hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken rural people like him, are migrating, desperately seeking better lives but often finding only more misery.